March is fraud protection month, which presents an opportunity to sharpen your attack against identity fraudsters. Worried about identity fraud? You’re not alone
A new survey released by Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) shows that the vast majority (75 percent) of Canadians are actively worried about protecting their identity, and that this number has steadily increased over the last five years.
Some key findings from the survey include:
- 44 percent of respondents said they were nervous making online purchases.
- 33 percent of respondents said that they had been victim of identity fraud in their lifetimes, with credit card and debit card being the most common access points (65 and 31 percent respectively).
- 17 percent of respondents said that they had corresponded (either through email or through social media) with someone who misrepresented themselves.
- 73 percent of respondents fear that their personal information is at risk because businesses are vulnerable to a cyber-attack.
The good news is that Canadians are being increasingly more proactive to protect themselves against identity fraud. The survey found that 75 percent of respondents actively taking more protective measures than they did five years ago.
“Our online world has created many conveniences for us, but has also opened the door on a whole new level of threat to our social and financial well-being,” says Jeff Schwartz, executive director at Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada.
“It is imperative that consumers be vigilant for fraudulent threats. The sad fact is that there is a crime sub-culture that exists solely to get your personal information for their financial gain. Falling victim to one of these fraudsters can spell devastating financial disaster, which can take years to correct, if at all.”
Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:
What’s the password?
First of all, never, ever share your PIN number- with anyone. It’s also a good idea to have a number of different PIN numbers or passwords, especially when it comes to sites that use your financial information. That way, if you get hacked, the damage may be limited to a few sources instead of all of your finances. Also, use combinations of letters, symbols and numbers to make it even harder for fraudsters to get access. Change these up often too.
When punching in your PIN number at a point of purchase, make sure to shield your hands.
Lock it up
Do you lock your mobile phone, tablet or laptop when not in use? You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked when you are away, right? Why would you leave your personal information unlocked on a device where it can easily be stolen, when you aren’t attending to it?
Lock it up and protect yourself.
A portable shredder is a worthwhile investment, as you should never put items that have your personal information (especially bank or credit statements) in the garbage. Shred statements, cheques or anything else that might pave the way for criminals to steal your identity before you throw them out.
If you receive an email or contact through social media that promises something that is too good to be true- it probably is. Don’t engage.
Also, your bank or government agency will never, ever contact you via email looking for details and information. Pick up the phone and verify if you receive any such requests. Chances are they are bogus.
Are you concerned with how to protect yourself from identity theft? Have you been a victim and are trying to get your finances back on track, but don’t know where to start? Let us help. Call one of our trained credit counsellors or check out our free online debt analysis tool to get started.